Wednesday, July 27, 2016

None Dare Call It Treason? Donald Trump Invites Russia To Hack the United States Government

Let's see if this jaw dropping bit of Donald Trump irresponsibility gets him sunk, once and for all.

“It would be interesting to see, I will tell you this, Russia, if you're listening I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”


If any non-Republican politician ever said that, the Republican-fascist cabloid and hate-talk radio stations would be calling for them to be prosecuted for treason if not executed.   Yeah, I know that since we are not at war with Russia it doesn't constitute the constitutional definition of treason but it fits the political definition of treason, without any ambiguity.   Let's see how many of the House members, Senators, Governors, other assorted politicians who endorsed him stick with him now that he has invited a foreign dictator of a country run by criminal oligarchs to attack the intelligence of the United States.   

Even David Gregory is appalled.   


Update to the first post of the day: Just Really, Really Stupid or Something Else?

I haven't been following it but Norman Solomon's old outfit, FAIR, has been pushing a conspiracy theory aimed at debunking the Russian involvement with the hacking of the DNC's e-mail server.   Solomon's associate, Jeff Cohen, was a founder of FAIR and a figure in the the "Bernie Delegates Network" as well.  Whatever motives can be suspected in the whole thing, it's clear that they've been really focused on making as much trouble for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign as they can.  As they have to admit, Bernie Sanders has nothing to do with what they're doing, they're just using his name, perhaps without his permission.

I am still looking at the stuff put out by FAIR and parroted in some other play-left sites but one of the striking things I'm seeing are citations of Edward Snowden, who I've suspected as having almost certainly given both the Russian and Chinese governments the huge amounts of stolen U.S. intelligence he took with him while he was on the lam.   Now, if there's someone you would choose to have less credibility on this matter than Edward Snowden, the, um, "guest?" of the Putin government I'd be hard placed to name them.

This election season is a good chance for the people, groups and institutions that the real left, the left that actually can get elected and change things need to get shut of to be identified.  They seem to be doing a good job of doing that identification, themselves.  The real left does things, wins elections, changes laws, the play-left does nothing but scribbles, dribbles, blabs and grabs attention.  We don't have the luxury of humoring them, anymore.  We've got a real fascist party to defeat.  Play time was over a long time back.

It Will Take At Least Sixteen Years To Make Real And Lasting Change

So the big treat of the "Bernie Sanders Delegates Network" - whose co-chair said they didn't care what Bernie Sanders asked them to do - given so much free publicity amounted to a few dozen delegates walking out of the convention and right over to the press table where they vented a bit.  That's what the threats of disruption and massive abandonment of the Democratic Party from the supporters of Bernie Sanders has amounted to.   Normon Solomon got his name in the media, so did Karen Bernal and a few others, that's all these things ever end up being, if we're lucky.

I am encouraged that, apparently, most of the Sanders delegates are grown up enough to not fall for the worst of the nonsense that the children among them spouted to a delighted media, an easy story is what those guys want most of all.  And if it could provide a bit of Hillary Hate click bait, so much the better.

Bernie Sanders has, in the last few weeks, stepped up and acted responsibly, for the most part.  He's a politician, he knows what real politics is really about.  It's the difference between trying to do something in the real world to make things really change and running your mouth and fingers about change.  You are not going to get all the change you want but it's infinitely better to get as much of it as you can instead of worse than none of it.  That's the choice, Hillary Clinton will deliver some of what we want and some of what we don't like, anyone who would have become president of the United States would do that.  Bernie Sanders, Tom Harkin, Mo Udall, even that great and good man, George McGovern. The alternative is Donald Trump who will be a disaster if he is elected.

There is nothing progressive or liberal or leftist about losing an election to the Republican-fascists. Even the worst person to have ever had a D after their name, even someone like the putrid and, thankfully, gone Joe Lieberman, at least has the potential to keep the likes of Mitch McConnell from running the Senate.  That's a huge deal as we can see from his term running the Senate.

As another real politician, Barney Frank, has pointed out, to make real change we will have to win this election, taking back the congress, AND THE NEXT MID-TERM ELECTION to make a lot of change.  I think if Hillary Clinton wins she has a far better chance of doing that than Barack Obama did.  She will be under no illusions that she can win over Republicans who have tried to destroy her and her family for the past three decades.  I strongly suspect she will be a far more effective president because she is tough as they come.   I hope she inspires people to come out and vote in the mid-term. If the Democrats held the Senate and House and the Presidency they could break the Republican-fascist strangle hold on the judiciary as well.  Then we might see some real change.  We've gotten to where we are over the last half-century.  It's going to take more than two years to turn it around, it will take at least two presidencies, sixteen years.  I probably won't be around to see it, I hope my nieces and nephews will be.


Hate Mail - Open Letter

Look, Tell Duncan from me,

It's not complicated.  I write things about things, people send me hate.  You gave up writing years ago, that's why you don't even get hate mail.   You voluntarily dropped out of things, skating by on your past glory, such as it was, as someone put it five years ago, milking your blog for money. I encouraged you to write stuff for years and you banned me while publishing people who lie about me. I lost interest in encouraging you.  You're like those people who were big in TV in the 50s who fell into obscurity with an ever decreasing group of fans who even remembered they'd been there.  Younger ones never heard of them.  But you did it by choice.  You didn't think that writing a few things was going to change the world in a few, short years, did you?  If you started out thinking you were going to have that kind of impact you're bound to get disappointed.  

You're a talented guy who is far from stupid, You've got a doctorate from a friggin' Ivy in a profitable field.  Some people find that impressive. You can start again,

It's a good idea to do that every so often, start afresh.   You'll feel like a new man. Think of it as mid-life opportunity.   If you fail, so what?  Try again.  A man with a PhD in econ isn't going to starve to death.   I'll probably do it when I hit a certain age just so I won't go stale.   But you're never going to do it as long as you keep up Baby Blue.  That model might have gotten you something in the '00s but it's over.  The alternative is to turn into a sort of Harry Hope running a fleabag bar full of people pretending they're what they aren't, waiting to drink themselves to  death.   Really, look at The Iceman Cometh.   You're not quite ready to turn into that guy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hate Mail

I don't care what conceited people too lazy to look at the context of something think they are thinking about it.   I especially don't care about what they say they think they're thinking about it.  

Post-modernism is hardly the problem, post-literacy is.  And there's no one more post-literate than you.   

Duncan, you should start again with different ground rules, that tired old thing is never going to recover.  No wonder you're feeling old and crabby at an age too young to have earned the right. 

Television Is The Liturgy of Capitalism

The trouble with commenting on Walter Brueggemann's lectures is that so many excellent points are made in the course of even one that are so worthy of reflection and calling to attention that it's hard to choose.  Add to that the need to transcribe what was said.  Here is a passage from the Q&As after the lecture posted below that has special relevance to what I've posted the past few days, as transcribed nearly verbatim by me.   The context is a long response to a woman who is a pastor commenting on the sins of the church in relation to violence against women. It's not an easy answer or a short one, it's better than that.

Television is the liturgy of capitalism.  Television is saturated with violence.  I think the most offensive ad I've seen during the baseball playoffs is Rob Lowe selling Direct TV and making fun of poor, ignorant people that still have cable.   That's violence against poor people.  Saying they're not really worthy consumer citizens.  And there ought to be an avalanche of protest to the people who pay for those kinds of ads.  I know that the focus [of the question] was the beating up of women but the seedbed for that violence is everywhere about entitled privileged people having the right to impose their privilege and their values on more vulnerable people  It's obscene.   Or did you see the obscene Cadillac ad during the Olympics and this very smug guy said “*Myehh... poor people, because they take a month off for vacation… well, we Cadillac owners work all the time,”  the inference clearly was that poor people in the United States don't have Cadillacs because they don't work as hard as I do.  We have to call out the whole violence system…. 

The context is in the frequently difficult texts of the Prophets in which even God is criticized - or, rather, complained bitterly to, from Brueggemann's context of the importance of a covenental relationship between God and the people of Israel.  Extending that understanding to all of the world through the teachings of Jesus and the early Christians.   But it's best to listen to him, yourself.

Fidelity and the Seduction of Certitude



Hate Mail - I Suspect That Thomas Nagel Was Right, Materialism Will Seem Laughable In A Generation or Two

Back about four years ago there was an eruption in the long tantrum that the new atheism has been when one of their own,  Thomas Nagel, published his book Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.   The tantrum, expressed in many book reviews of varying degrees of anger and poses of hauteur, was almost as interesting as any of the ideas in the book because it was such a good example of how these would-be men of hard science, really, when you sweep away the pretense, are as emotionally invested in their ideology as any other fundamentalist.  When you add in the professional, financial and social status gained and maintained by holding what is the hegemonic elite ideology and what any endangerment of that status questioning it would hold, the rage is as cynical and calculating as that of any of the worst late-Renaissance papacies.   I have noticed that a number of the big figures in atheist orthodoxy are scientists, a number of them working in the highest status theoretical side of science, some of those having been freed by academic license to not deal with the tedious and vulgar observation of nature, who have a huge amount invested in the supremacy of the physical universe as either described or speculated on by people paid money to do that.  But they're hardly alone.  There is something to be gained from adherence to orthodox atheism, if only in the social status of not being a faith-head, the smug assurance that you are superior to the ignorant masses of humanity who lack the strength of character and intellect to face the hard reality of materialism.

I don't think the complex of character traits and social interactions explaining atheist fundamentalism is investigated nearly enough.

That is common among those who work in journalism, which automatically promotes that materialism and the views of the world, our species and society which they learned right thinking people held when they were in college.   Either that or, just as they know they can gain status by elevating the status of the vulgar materialists of right-wing Republicans or at least avoid being shoved aside if they don't report stenographically what they get from them.   I really don't think the promotion of hoity-toity, academic materialism is all that different from the promotion of its vulgar wing in Republican Mammonism and I think that the professional advantage gained by doing both is a very present motivation in our media.  At the very least reporters, editors, publishers and even columnists know that there is a price to be paid if you promote the opposite, at least in the world that the reputable, elite scribblers and babblers travel in or hope to travel in.

All of this is a long introduction to another in my periodic issues of challenges to atheists.

How can the materialists' brain-only model of the mind could build just the right structure to embody just the right information to comprise an idea before that information and idea could exist in the brain because it hadn't been made yet?   How does the brain know how to do that and manage to do it in the extremely short time period in which we experience the thinking of new ideas, sometimes extremely novel ideas, sometimes ideas for which there is no physical existence?   The mechanism must work in real time, not make-believe time or it is not credible.   I have been asking that question here and in other places for more than a year and other than having the magic formulas of "natural selection" thrown at it without any explanation of that citation, the atheists have come up with nothing.

Try as they might to ignore such problems, Thomas Nagel, rightly, noted that if materialism couldn't deal with the experience of consciousness then it could not be either true or a valid framework for thinking about the universe.  And if that's the case then the entire edifice of "the materialist neo-Darwinist conception of nature" is wrong and maintaining it is rank superstition and, certainly, a hindrance to furthering knowledge of the real universe.   With that goes the inevitable conclusion that the high-priesthood of academic atheism in the past, that establishment which still holds hegemonic control of universities and colleges and sway among those so trained are no more enlightened than any chosen group of benighted people that those atheistic folk choose to look down on, ridicule and mock.   It could be hoped that the record of the many and horrific sins of such people chalked up in the last few centuries would be investigated to see the relationship between those their logical motivation and the ideology of reducing people, animals and other living things to the status of inanimate objects having no rights anyone needed to take as more than a mere social convention.   In that atheism has a far stronger burden of guilt because, unlike Christianity, Judaism or Islam, any such sins were in accord with materialist atheism while they were a violation of the commandments of those despised religions.   You cannot both follow Jesus and do what he condemned and refusing to do what he said to do, you are being bad at being a Christian if you kill, oppress, enslave or fail to treat even your enemies and the most outcast of the "undeserving destitute" among you well.  You could kill all of them in the name of economic efficiency or even just because it makes you feel good if you're a materialist and you would be violating nothing in materialism as you did.  You would certainly be acting in accord with natural selection to do that, as a number of the champion murderers of the 20th century held they were doing.  Natural selection is all about the stronger killing off the weak in a struggle for existence, no matter how many times it's tried to turn into something else.

Materialism really is a different and far more dangerous ideology because, as so many of its better thinkers concluded, it led to the inevitable dismissal of moral constraint.  There really is nothing to keep someone so inclined from doing whatever they want except a calculation that they will likely not get away with it and that they might pay a price that is higher than the satisfaction of doing the most appalling things.   Relying on social conventions and the otiosity displayed by a majority of academics has not proven to be any kind of reliable constraint on even the most genteel of them.  If there is a lesson in the monumentally murderous regimes of the 20th century, most of them quite motivated by their understanding of science and thoroughly materialistic, either in the elite or the vulgar expressions of it, it is that people are quite able to go home from a hard day of killing people, of creating weapons of mass destruction, of consigning entire ethnic or other groups to the kill list and live rather perfumed, conventionally estimable lives.

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's Official The Bernie Sanders Delegates Network Doesn't Care What He Says. Let's See How Many Of His People Do

Aside from Putin very possibly trying to ratfuck the presidential election for Donald Trump, the other political news from the day is that Bernie Sanders can't lead his own followers into reality.  It's not that big a surprise, the first real doubts I had about the wisdom of Sanders having mounted his campaign were based on the behavior of his supporters at my town's caucus - not all of them, but enough of them.

If we are unlucky, this is the year "the left" entirely discredits itself, perhaps for the last time in our lifetimes.   I realize there is a lot of time between now and November but, having seen this production three times before, I'm not going to bet on "the left" acting more maturely than it did in 2000 or 1980 or 1968.  Perhaps that comes with the segment of political identity which so heavily depends on the barely post-adolescent, though I can say that most of the biggest jerks are a lot older than that, chronologically, at least.   The idea that the least experienced voters with the least historical context to have learned from are going to produce wise choices is ridiculous.  It is as ridiculous now as it was when we were told the same lie in the 1960s.  I would advise the young to realize what crap they've been sold, it's both an excuse and a way to wise up.

Bernie Sanders is reported to have given his supporters some minimal request that they act maturely but it is suspected that a lot of them are going to make assholes of themselves.   They're being encouraged to do so by the magazines and webazines of the left, from high to low, they've shown themselves to be anything from not helpful to entirely irresponsible.   As mentioned here the other day, since the "left-left" doesn't actually win elections the leadership of it resides in media and the people who scribble and babble content for it.

David Corn, at Mother Jones does seem to be catching on that this election is a death match between democracy and fascism, it took long enough.  In an article about how the Sanders delegates are planning to vent through the entire convention he gives you a lot to worry about.

At a press conference on Monday morning, the Bernie Delegates Network, an outfit independent of the Sanders campaign that claims to represent two-thirds of the Sanders delegates, presented Sanders delegates outraged at the DNC and Clinton campaign. They were mad that Clinton has named Wasserman Schultz an honorary chairwoman of her campaign. There was talk of launching protests—"an expression of disapproval"—during Clinton and Kaine's speeches. This could include delegates booing or walking out.

Norman Solomon, a Sanders delegate, asserted, "There is serious interest and exploration…in a formal challenge" to Kaine. Who might that be? Solomon replied that Sanders delegates have approached several politicians, but that "those who want to eat lunch at the White House, they run the other way." So any names? "We're working on it." (Solomon said he has had "zero connection with the Bernie campaign.")

As an aside, Solomon is a long time professional lefty who should certainly have grown up to the extent that he knows how stupid that nonsense is.  But the hard school of experience doesn't seem to teach guys like him much.   I think I'm right that his experience of real politics is as a failed congressional candidate (California's 2nd district) and he, otherwise, has headed a few semi-obscure groups who you'll get solicitations from if you subscribe to the lefty magazines, so he's part of that so notably failed establishment.  I would imagine he drew a pay check from them, though.  It's just that none of which has led him to maturity even as he is at retirement age.

His latest shtick is a "Bernie Sanders" network that doesn't care what he thinks.

“He’s not running the movement,” said Norman Solomon, national coordinator of the Bernie Delegate Network, which operates independent of Sanders.

Let me guess, Solomon figures this is his thing, riding an anti-Kaine hobby horse to take the platform.  He might have some competition.

Karen Bernal, a leader of the California Sanders delegation, said there would be nothing wrong with Sanders people jeering Clinton when she comes to the podium. She did note that the Sanders campaign was "pressing us not to be involved in protests and not to be so overt in our expressions…My job is to make sure that the wishes of my delegates are heard, that their opinions are heard...They have never been a group to take marching orders."

Bernal believes Sanders' endorsement of Clinton was a mistake. She said, "We can still be mad at Hillary Clinton and still say it's essential to defeat Trump." But asked if protests by Sanders delegate would help the effort to defeat Trump, Beral noted, "It absolutely helps," because it will signal to progressives that there is a place for them within the Democratic Party. She didn't explain precisely how deriding Clinton and her veep pick would bolster the effort to elect Clinton.

Believe me, none of them makes any more sense than that.  From googling Bernal, she was active in the run up to the disastrous Nevada caucus last spring and she's a much quoted jerk who is obviously the grab the mic and get attention sort.  She and Solomon are frequent names in stories of intended disruption in the name of Bernie Sanders but, as has been clear for the past several weeks, it's not remotely about him at this point.

So, where are the adults in the Sanders' delegation?  Are the adult scared of the eternal adolescents among them or will they break with them?   I'm sure there are adults among them, let's see them try to take charge.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

McCoy Tyner - Contemplation


McCoy Tyner (piano)
Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone)
Ron Carter (bass)
Elvin Jones (drums)

Philadelphia's own, the great McCoy Tyner

Harold Pinter - A Slight Ache

I decided to post this one because it uses the enormous potential of sound only in your ear and mind so well.  You are left to decide if there is a third person or if he's a creation of the two characters, adapted to each of their own preferences and needs.  


The Match Seller might be as close to a likable character as Pinter ever wrote but that might be just because I want him to be one.   I can't say the others are.  

" the human par excellence, as he discovers the true and full meaning of his humanity " As Opposed To The Trump Strong-Man Vision Of Life

The opposite view of life from that of Donald Trump, Dirty Harry and the High Plains Drifter is readily available. though hardly enjoying widespread promotion.   As you could imagine, Marilynne Robinson, one of our greatest writers and intellectuals holds the opposite view of life.  Here is her interview with Bill Moyers on Faith, Capitalism and Democracy.    The transcript is especially valuable because the stop time experience of reading, the instant review of what was said which is possible makes her points even more strongly.



Also, by chance, this weeks On Being program is of Krista Tippett's interview with someone else who has an entirely different view of life.

Xavier Le Pichon, one of the world's leading geophysicists, helped create the field of plate tectonics. A devout Catholic and spiritual thinker, he raised his family in intentional communities centered around people with mental disabilities. He shares his rare perspective on the meaning of humanity — a perspective equally informed by his scientific and personal encounters with fragility as a fundament of vital, evolving systems. Le Pichon has come to think of caring attention to weakness as an essential quality that allowed humanity to evolve.

Here is the unedited tape.


I especially like what Krista Tippett says at the start about how intimacy can come from encountering the mind of someone else without visual cues.   


What Le Pichon says about the discovery of the neanderthal skeleton called Shanidar 1. a profoundly disabled individual who was, clearly, cared for for years in his community of neanderthals, without almost any of the technology of even primitive human beings, carried from place to place, fed, a member of the community who almost certainly was without any economic utility to people living on a far narrower edge of survival than any but the most desperate of modern Americans is especially worth considering.   Here, from Xavier Le Pichon's essay republished at the On Being website.

To illustrate this point, it is best to consider signs of humane behavior among prehistoric societies. The most extraordinary example is probably the one hundred thousand years old Shanidar 1 skeleton. This skeleton belonged to a Neanderthal man about forty years old discovered by Ralph Solecki in the 1950’s in a cave of the Zagros mountains in Iraq . This man was so severely handicapped that he could not have lived to this age without the support of the group to which he belonged. According to Trinkaus and Shipman5,

“Careful study of his bones revealed a plethora of serious but healed fractures. There had been a crushing blow to the left side of the head, fracturing the eye socket, displacing the left eye, and probably causing blindness on that side. He also sustained a massive blow to the right side of the body that so badly damaged the right arm that he became withered and useless; the bones of the shoulder blade, collarbone, and the upper arm are much thinner than those on the left. The right lower arm and hand are missing, probably not because of poor preservation as fossils but because they either atrophied and dropped off or because they were amputated. The right foot and lower right leg were also damaged, possibly also at the same time. There is a healed fracture of one of the bones in the arch of the foot associated with advanced degenerative disease of various bones of the ankle and big toe. These problems would have left the foot with little, and very painful mobility. The right knee and various parts of the left leg also show signs of pathological damage; these may have been either further consequences of the same traumatic injury or lesions that developed in reaction to the abnormal limping gait that must have resulted from the damage to the right leg and foot.” As Solecki argued, “someone so devastatingly injured could not possibly have survived without care and sustenance. Whether the right arm was severed intentionally, accidentally, or as a result of physical deterioration, a one-armed, partially blind, crippled man could have made no pretense of hunting and gathering his own food. That he survived for years after his trauma was a testament to Neanderthal compassion and humanity.”

When Ralph Solecki popularized his findings in a book entitled “Shanidar, The First Flower People”, because the skeletons discovered in the Shanidar cave appeared to have been buried below a bed of flowers, many scientists expressed strong doubts about his conclusions. Since then, it has been well established that Shanidar 1 was not an exception and that Neanderthalers “fed and looked after severely handicapped members of their communities who were too disabled to contribute to the food quest.”6 Actually the skepticism of the scientists appears to me to be a demonstration of how difficult it is for us to face this apparent contradiction with straightforward Darwinian theory. In order to be able to continue to live for many years (as the healed bones show) it would have been necessary for him to be entirely taken care of by his community. What was this community? It would have consisted of perhaps twenty or thirty people living by hunting and gathering, without a permanent camp. Every day the community would have moved on in search of new resources. We can only imagine the considerable effort, which this group had to make for many years in order to transport this person from camp to camp, in order to feed him and in order to simply allow him to live. Why did a small group of nomads, having each day to look for their food through hunting and plant gathering decide to radically reorganize their life so that a severely handicapped man would become the center of their efforts and attention? What did they receive from him to continue doing this during forty years? Why did they decide to bury him? In the past, the fact of being buried showed the great respect shown by the community for that person. Not everyone was given a burial during this era—interment only becoming general about ten thousand years ago. What did they discover about their own humanity through this long and arduous process of sharing their life with a severely disabled man? Was this their way of facing death and suffering? Why did this person become the new focus of society?

The Shanidar 1 individual demonstrates to me that this experience of welcoming the suffering of our neighbor is at the very heart of our identity of humans since the origin. Actually I have argued elsewhere7 that when humans enter into the type of relationship that was lived within the Shanidar group of Neanderthalians, the gift they receive from each other is the discovery of their own humanity. Our humanity is not an attribute that we have received once and forever with our conception. It is a potentiality that we have to discover within us and progressively develop or destroy through our confrontation with the different experiences of suffering that will meet us throughout our life.

We are therefore faced with a phenomenon as old as man himself: in the face of the utilitarian logic which dominates the world of living things, man came up with a way to put someone who no longer had any “utility” at the center of his community thus allowing him to live and to continue to occupy his place in society. This choice inevitably leads to a reorganization of society. As soon as this seemingly foolish choice is made, everything must be reorganized around the person who suffers the most, who is the most wounded and handicapped. It is the only way. That person becomes the center of everyone’s attention. Something completely new is created: this person becomes the new focus of society.

We are dealing with the emergence of the human par excellence, as he discovers the true and full meaning of his humanity. And in a way one can say that since his origins/beginnings, the human has not ceased to re-invent this humanity. When faced with the suffering of a sick, wounded, ageing or handicapped person, we are confronted with an extremely difficult and painful choice: we may say, “ I cannot “ or “I don’t want to”, or “ I don’t want this any more”. This is rejection. Either Society becomes hard by concentrating only on those who are productive or who will be in the future, or it opens out by refocusing on new avenues, new dialogue and a new way of life. In this way of life people will invent new goods for society like the goods of communication, openness and sharing: the person who is no longer capable of direct contribution to the survival of society discovers moreover that he is welcomed as a full contributor. And this welcome profoundly changes the community that practices it.

It is remarkable that with our incredible technology and our enormous wealth, we, apparently are tempted to a lesser view of our species and ourselves than that which that band of neanderthals had. I could mention what Walter Brueggemann points out in the Hebrew Prophets, the point where they see the dangers of affluence under empire in encouraging people to forget the humane dimensions of life and their own history but that will come later. 

Also, I will forego the temptation to point out the mention of the English-language, Darwinist view of life which is contradicted by this example, the one which has been promoted by the scientism which Marilynne Robinson talks about in her interview, the view which has enjoyed a dangerous academic and popular cultural resurgence since the mid 1970s as the experience of the Second World War ebbs. At least I will not go into that today but I'm sure it will come up soon, it is a shorthand version of what the opponents of fascism are up against.   Darwinism is intimately connected with fascism,  even that fascism found among those who officially oppose Darwinism as science, it is embraced as a vision for society and government.  Such people don't mind living in irony and contradiction. 

Hate Mail - There Are No Bigger Suckers Than The Free Speech Absolutists - They Buy The Most Transparent Lie Ever Sold

As mentioned yesterday morning, if you diss Clint Eastwood's movies, you will get a reaction from those who need him as some kind of potency aid or other and what I said got that reaction.  I have been finding that out for at least the last six years.  That he proved himself at the 2012 Republican Convention, before the eyes of millions, to be able to rant insanely, and I would maintain, in a clearly racist, demeaning manner at an empty chair - in a manner not that different from that which a really hammy MacBeth screaming at an empty chair demonstrating his descent into fascist violence would - is nothing compared to the sexy fascist cop - a law unto himself -  he embodied or the vengeful rapist he also embodied with less sartorial sense.

I didn't really expect such people to read Marilynne Robinson's essay - at least one whose snark was brought to my attention didn't even bother to read what I'd written - or they might have seen that the point I have made a number of times was touched on in the essay, alluding to his fascistic cop in Dirty Harry, a cop licensed to kill people with his giant gun but whose grasp of doing so under the rule of law was rather weak.   I am always curious to know what movies and TV shows people who kill other people watched and enjoyed,  I would like to know how many of the cops who shoot down innocent black people watched such movies, the original or the many knock-offs.  When you're talking Hollywood, you know that there will be lots of knock-offs.  I also wonder the same about people who shoot up schools and movie theaters.   Those cases where much is known about the shooters, I suspect they're more influenced by what they watch than by what they read.

I have also mentioned, many times, to outraged effect, that the media, entertainment and alleged news, have pushed the ridiculous and hypocritical claim that what people imbibe in movies, TV, and other venues of media has no effect on their behavior.  That ideas presented to people so as to attract and hold their attention, or at least eyeballs, and make money for those producing it will have no effect, whatsoever, on the thinking and actions of those people.  The media does so even as it makes billions of dollars selling advertising, overt and covert - product placement - to alter the thinking and actions of the audience.   Social science also plays all sides of the street, giving media the strategies to more effectively sell garbage to an unsuspecting audience while providing the ersatz data to prove that what they claim to be able to do doesn't happen.  That what people are sold with the most alluring of methods - most often through appealing to the presented model of sexual appeal and gratification - doesn't have the very effects through which they peddle their expertise to the producers of those media.

The whole thing is, has been and will be the most blatant of crap.   What people take in has an effect on them, either the primary effect intended by the media - making money for their advertisers and, so themselves through ticket sales and ad revenue - or the secondary ones of molding the thinking and actions of the susceptible, which includes all of us.  Some will buy DVDs or downloads, gorging on Dirty Harry and the High Plains Drifter, some will want to buy the biggest gun and pack it in public, some will combine that with the similar paranoid inducement to violence that they get from similar media, some of it with an even more overt political intention, racial and ethnic animus and less restraint from some legal department or someone concerned with the impact that overt fascist content may have had on ticket sales.

The entire line of assertion that the presentation of such content is harmless was known to be a lie  at least since the aftermath of Klan activity after the release of Birth of a Nation.  Since it's the movies and TV we're talking about, I'll let pass the fact that it has been known since the invention of writing and even before when someone invented story telling.   It was known to the champion murderers of the 20th century, fascist, Nazi, Marxist, Stalinist, Maoist, etc. who all used the movies, radio and television to propagandize their populations and those abroad.  The America First effort to keep the United States from entering WWII in a more timely fashion was just one example.   That what people see in the movies and on TV have an especially strong effect on thinking and actions has been known in Hollywood and other centers of production since the start.  Having an effect on other people is the whole point of it.   The very people who pushed the line that it had no effect on thinking and behavior were in the same business which made money in the same way.  The very people who push that lie in its quasi-academic form are lying in order to effect peoples' thinking and their behavior, especially their political behavior.  It is a lie, sold by the media and those who champion the importance of the media, through assertions of social science - some of it bought and paid for by those who want to keep doing that.

When someone is selling you a lie that is demonstrated to be a transparent lie contradicted in the very act of lying they are engaged in, you really have to be the ultimate chump to buy it.   That some of them sit on the Supreme Court only shows that such chumpery isn't unknown to the intellectual elite.  That is those who don't have the ulterior motive of liberating the media to lie out of even more sinister political motives and to have an even worse political effect.  Their ends are the same that Clint had in 2012, only their act is different.

I knew the reaction I would get by saying what was said  and I got it.  The fools who reacted predictably proved what I claimed by their reaction to it.   And I didn't even have to use movies to do it.

Update:  I also knew that the big brains of Eschaton would snark about what was said even as they didn't read it.

Duncan,  we've had our differences but you deserve a better comment community than the one you've got.  You ever consider starting over again?   I recommend comment moderation BEFORE publication.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday Night Drama - John Gardner - The Temptation Game

The Hollywood-Republican Promotion of Paranoia And Fear Has Turned Us Into World Class Chumps For Trump

I have been posting things I write online long enough to know what things will get someone's knickers in a knot.  If I wanted to, I could probably get a lot of readers by writing stuff that would get the kind of reaction that Salon and AlterNet clearly use as their marketing strategy, but I don't see any point in that, regularly, though it is, occasionally, necessary.

One of the more certain ways to do that is to diss the movies and TV.  Americans, alleged left to far right love their movies and TV.  And one of the figures of Hollywood whose dissing will get the biggest reaction is the man who, in his younger days sold his vision of paranoid violence with (women fearing, woman using) sexuality,  Clint Eastwood.   If it were not so hellishly hot here right now, if I were not enervated from the heat I might try, try to imagine the mind-set that has been influenced by Clint and that genre of movie he epitomizes, though it would probably put me off thinking about sex for quite a few days if I got anywhere with it.  So I won't go any farther with that, not today.

I re-read Marilynne Robinson's essay Fear,  published in the New York Review of Books.  As a number of writers have noted, since the Republican-fascist convention, it is especially timely as they are trying to sell the show-biz, likely ersatz billionaire crack pot as President of the United States through exactly those fears that Robinson goes through in that great essay.  That Donald Trump as a public figure is a creation of show biz, entertainment TV, it is especially appropriate to concentrate on the role that entertainment - which includes cabloid era "news" - has had in selling him to enough voters to make him the nominee of the Republican party.   He's not the first such figure, Ronald Reagan was elevated by the same use by Republicans of entertainment to create him as a politician, one who reportedly couldn't focus on briefings, who would spontaneously start talking about the movie he watched the previous night as he was to be dealing with even the most momentous issues of government, foreign policy and the use of military power to kill lots of people, many of them entirely innocent.  It is a growing consensus that for a good part of at least his second term he was already well into the dementia which eventually killed him.   Consider the fact that he was sold by the media to the American public, defeating Jimmy Carter who, well into his nineties, shows no sign of mental debility and you have to conclude that the media, far from being the savior of American democracy is it primary source of destructive decay.

There is no rational case that this year the American media, the entertainment side and the less powerful part of that devoted to cabloid style infotanement is not repeating that pattern, that it has produced a country which could well elect Donald Trump over one of the most competent candidates and certainly the most investigated, tried and vetted candidate who has ever had a chance to win the office, Hillary Clinton.   Far from sounding any kind of alarm, the media with the real influence is presenting Donald Trump's message of fear of others, of pandering to insecurity and anxiety as if any of his alleged and ever shifting ideas - of, by and for the oligarchs - will do anything for the majority of people.  Far from pointing out that he is, by his own words, promoting strong-man fascism, the American media is selling him as a normal candidate instead of what he is, a man whose vision is fascistic as his CEO role in his reality TV show which raised him to his position in popular culture is.

If you want to know how the people of the United States came to the mind-set that could elect its second, Hollywood invented Republican candidate for President in less than four decades, look at Dirty Harry and the High Plains Drifter.    That vision of life, that concept of America was what produced where we are now.  A hell of a lot more people watched those than ever read a book by Milton Friedman or one ghost-written to be published as by Donald Trump.

------------------

Marilynne Robinson's essay makes many excellent points about the irrationality induced by the Republican campaign of fear and paranoia, none of them more terrifyingly appropriate than that of the current market in Kalashnikovs,  It is so excellent that I'm going to give you more than I probably should, though you really need to read the entire essay to get its total impact.

At a lunch recently Lord Jonathan Sacks, then chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, said that the United States is the world’s only covenant nation, that the phrase “We the People” has no equivalent in the political language of other nations, and that the State of the Union Address should be called the renewal of the covenant. I have read that Americans are now buying Kalashnikovs in numbers sufficient to help subsidize Russian rearmament, to help their manufacturers achieve economies of scale. In the old days these famous weapons were made with the thought that they would be used in a land war between great powers, that is, that they would kill Americans. Now, since they are being brought into this country, the odds are great that they will indeed kill Americans. But only those scary ones who want to destroy all we hold dear. Or, more likely, assorted adolescents in a classroom or a movie theater.

I know there are any number of people who collect guns as sculpture, marvels of engineering. When we mount a cross on a wall, we don’t do it with the thought that, in a pinch, we might crucify someone. This seems to be a little different when the icon in question is a gun. A “civilian” Kalashnikov can easily be modified into a weapon that would blast a deer to smithereens. That’s illegal, of course, and unsportsmanlike. I have heard the asymmetry rationalized thus: deer can’t shoot back. Neither can adolescents in a movie theater, of course. Neither can anyone not prepared for mayhem to break loose anywhere, at any time. And, imagining an extremely improbable best case, it is very hard to threaten or deter someone who is suicidal, as most of these assailants are. Gun sales stimulate gun sales—a splendid business model, no doubt about that. Fear operates as an appetite or an addiction. You can never be safe enough.

I know that hunting is sacrosanct in this country. This is beside the point, since hunting rifles are not the problem. And the conversation around this issue never stays long with hunting. It goes instead to the Second Amendment. Any literalist reading would notice the founders’ words “well-regulated” on one hand, and on the other the alarm that arises among the pro-gun people at the slightest mention of anything that resembles regulation, and their constant efforts to erode what little regulation there is. The supposed neglect or abuse of this revered document, and the supposed “defense of the Second Amendment,” is leveraged on that other fear, the fear that those bland blue helmets might be gathering even now, maybe in Canada, to commence their internationalist march into the heart of Texas. Will we wake to find ourselves betrayed by our own government!! Maybe nothing has deterred them to this point but those Kalashnikovs. How fortunate that the factory in Russia is up and running. And how hard those Russians must be laughing, all the way to the bank. And all those homicidal insurgents and oppressors in the turbulent parts of the world, how pleased they must be that we cheapen these marvelous weapons for them. Oh, I know there are all sorts of reliable gun manufacturers, in Austria, for example. Our appetite for weapons is one of those vacuums nature hates, that is to say, fills.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Elizabeth Warren On Trump: "He Sounded Like A Two-Bit Dictator"


Shorter Trump:  All we have to fear is EVERYTHING, except fear, itself. 

Thoughts After The Republican-Fascist Convention

It took the Hollywood meets Nuremberg horror of the Republican Convention to knock the Hillary Hater click-bait off of the "Most Read" sidebar list of Salon magazine, replaced by such horrified truths as that we could have an actual strong-man style fascist in a President Donald Trump as soon as the end of January.   I haven't checked the other alleged and actual lefty publications to see what the past two nights of fascist psychosis coming from the Republican Convention have done to their "most read" side bars but the beginning of the week, when I checked, almost all of those I've been criticizing for pandering to the Hillary haters on the play-left were still doing so.  And what they didn't have in the stories and columns they had in heaps of Hillary hating in their comment threads.

The "left, left," the socialist, Marxist, etc. "left" doesn't have a leadership holding public office in the United States, such people don't win elections in the United States.   What it has in lieu of a real, elected leadership are a class of scribblers and academics who write up a left and that class of scribblers have been thoroughly discredited this year.  They are augmented by and are the guest list of the few narrow and web-cast venues of that same left the Amy Goodmans and Cenk Uygars,  Add in the odd documentary maker and that's what the left has as a "leadership".  The writers who have realized, early and realistically how dangerous this election season has become and who have been published in the lefty venues have been weakened by the same venues publishing the most lavishly irresponsible and lunatic delusion which has enabled the weakening of the winner of the Democratic nomination process on the most unrealistic of all delusions, that either Bernie Sanders or the likes of Jill Stein had any chance of being elected over the Republican who would be the certain alternative.   I have no doubt that as this campaign continues those same magazines and webazines and blab-shows will continue to sponsor the same level of insane irresponsibility that they have, those writers are either on their staff or they are buddies with the editors and publishers of those magazines.   No less than FOX, the people who run the lefty media know that their existence depends on servicing their niche audience and they will provide it with what it wants, interestingly, when it comes to Hillary Clinton, they want the same thing.    Unlike FOX, they don't want an oligarchic-fascist in the White House though they have certainly proven themselves able to be ruled by that segment of their audience who are insane enough to claim there is no difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

In this situation, I see some of the wisdom of democracy over the alternative, the elected leadership of the Democratic Party, with all its many warts and blemishes, is realistic about this situation whereas the unelected media-leaders of the "left-left" have failed the test of reality rather badly and over the course of the past fifty years.   The extent to which elected leaders have had to deal with the petty misinformation of the "left-left" media, it has, generally, been a mixed bag.  But it has often come with a real, political cost to those who have managed to do what the "left-left" doesn't do, gain more than the odd political office, here and there.

I have come to the conclusion that the media, in general, has lied the United States into the present center to insane right miasma we live in.  The media, freed by the "left-left" program of impunity for the media when it lies has, over the past half-century, filled the collective American mind with lies favorable to the profits of that media, its owners and the other members of its class.   There is no doubt that the very intellectual product of a media which has been given carte blanche to lie in the most seductive and entertaining ways has made an instance when Democrats hold effective leadership of the Presidency, the Congress and the Court a thing of the past, vanishing into the distant horizon behind us.   We have not had that in any secure way since the very year after the Supreme Court made that tragic decision in 1964, at the behest of the allegedly liberal media.

The fact that the left, the "left-left" its play-left faction and the REAL LEFT which has a chance of getting elected has to face is that for the foreseeable future, Hillary Clinton is almost certainly the most liberal person who can be elected as president of the United States.  Any other proposal is a delusion.  Real leftists, like Elizabeth Warren and, like it or not, Bernie Sanders have come round to facing that reality.   The lefty magazines, the webazines, the audience seeking broad and narrow casters of the "left-left" will not face that reality in a timely enough fashion for them to maintain their credibility with anyone who cares about reality.   This is the year they have proven themselves to be unreliable even in the face of impending fascism.   The real leadership of the real left are those who can manage to get elected with a majority of the votes even in the environment which the idiotic theories of the scribbling left have produced with the concurrence of the unelected elite of the Supreme Court.  And even some of them have come to understand how dangerous this year is.

I think the past half-century of American politics has been a test of the idea of "free press-free speech" absolutism and it has failed, abysmally.  It hasn't produced enhanced egalitarian democracy, it has produced an accelerating decline into fascism.   It has turned out that whoever said, "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free" was wiser than those who came up with the idea that freedom was compatible with lies freely told.  The fact is that "more speech" will not overcome a campaign of well-financed and media-magnified lies, certainly not a consistently and constantly repeated series of lies told in language and by people selected to make the selling of those lies easier.
You would have to be a writer or yackker with a bloated sense of your own power and ability to not have figured that out the first time the idea of "more speech" entered your self-aggrandizing fantasy.   Unfortunately, lots of such fantasists go into writing and the media and academia.   It's no wonder that a "left" which depends on them for its leadership is bound to go into a half-century and continuing wilderness journey that, unlike that which Moses led the Children of Israel on, hasn't proven to be an educational experience.  The leaders of the "left-left" haven't had to bear the hard lessons of privation, they are safely middle to upper class.  Is it any wonder that those members of the Democratic coalition who do live with those hard lessons have not gone with their choice this year?

Note: I was going to include anarchists in the lest of the "left-left" but it makes no sense for anarchists to hold a position on who gets elected or government or anything to do with elections or holding office.   Anarchism is probably the supreme example of "left-left" insanity and refusal to face the reality that someone is going to exercise power whenever that is up for grabs.  If that isn't determined democratically, the choice of an accurately informed and morally responsible electorate, it will be gangsters and criminals who do.   After listening to him and reading some of his babbling, I think they have a lot more in common with the lunatic, anti-democratic, billionaire, Trump supporter, Peter Thiel than they would ever want someone to notice.  I understand he was heavily influenced by RenĂ© Girard's pseudo-scientific, soc-sci based academic nuttery and other such theory.  His strong-man fascist libertarian insanity is anarchy without the egalitarian-moral gloss coat it so often wears.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Arnold Schoenberg: A Survivor from Warsaw


Bamberger Symphoniker orchestra and chorus conducted by Horst Stein,
Hermann Prey, narrator

A Pill Won't, In The End, Cure A Problem Caused By The Disrespect And Commodification of People, Especially Women

If this works, of course it is a good idea to give teenagers who are sexually active a medical way to prevent getting HIV, taking into account the reality of what they are doing.   My question is if it isn't bound to fail, in the long run.   I also wonder if depending on it avoids working on other parts of the problem, which if unaddressed may lead to other and, possibly, worse problems.

Every night at 8 p.m., 18-year-old Catherine Msimango takes a pill.

It's the same pill that people with HIV take to fight the virus. Only she doesn't have HIV.

Msimango says the pill gives her power against the virus. She can take it even without her boyfriend knowing.

"It's all about my safety because I don't know what he does when I'm not around," she says. "If he doesn't want to use protection [a condom], I know that I'm safe from the pill."

Msimango lives in the sprawling South African township of Soweto in the heart of the HIV epidemic. South Africa has nearly 7 million people living with HIV, more than any other country in the world. And nearly 1 in 5 adults is infected. HIV rates are lower for adolescents but increase rapidly as teens move into their 20s.

Some AIDS experts now believe that one way to keep rates down is with a daily pill... 

... The novel prevention technique has proven highly effective in blocking the transmission of HIV in gay men and sex workers. Now it's being tried among sexually active teens.

Studies have shown that taking daily doses of the drugs offers an extremely high level of protection against HIV. If taken correctly and consistently the pill is nearly 100 percent effective in blocking transmission of the virus. Researchers call the technique pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.

Those earlier studies were primarily with gay men. The study Msimango is in was launched last year with 150 sexually active teens between the ages of 15 and 19. Linda-Gail Bekker is the deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town and one of the lead investigators on this pilot study.

"I think having [a form of HIV prevention] that a young woman can use discreetly and is in her absolute control is something we've been missing throughout this epidemic," Bekker says.

Being realistic about how people are having sex is essential in trying to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and there is no question that the fact is that even the existence of horrifically damaging diseases being contracted has not in the past or today kept people from engaging in sexual practices that spread them.

My question is if the virus won't, perhaps even more rapidly with increased promiscuity, evolve strains that are resistant to the drugs being used, now.  If that is what happens, this is, at best, a temporary fix.  Fixing the economic conditions described in the story, especially the commodification of people for sex, is still necessary and this kind of program shouldn't be used as an excuse to not work on that, though I fear it will be.

Sabelo Sekhukhuni, one of the counselors helping to run the PrEP program in Soweto, says the pressure on teenage girls in impoverished parts of South Africa to have sex is huge.

"When you look at an informal settlement where there isn't electricity, sex is a sport. Sex is an activity to keep themselves busy," he says.

Sex also at times is used as currency. Girls who have no money can be offered cell phones or new clothes by older men who want to sleep with them.

Just behind the hospital where the PrEP study is being conducted, says Sekhukhuni, there's a settlement of shacks where the people don't have electricity.

"So there's this one guy who owns a tavern and he has a generator and he makes people pay 5 rand to charge their cellphones," he says.

But he offers to charge girls' phones for free in exchange for sex. And some of the girls accept his offer.

In these types of relationships the tavern owner holds a lot of power in the community. He's got the generator. The man may be HIV positive and Sekhukhuni says he may refuse to use condoms.

"The same girls that sleep with this guy they'll go back and sleep with their peers of their same age group," he says. "Meaning [HIV] is still going to spread some more."

But Sekhukhuni says this is the beauty of PrEP. In these complex, messy, real-world sexual networks, PrEP may be able to protect these teenagers from the lifelong burden of HIV.

I don't, not for a second, believe this program should be stopped if it is keeping people, especially young people, from becoming infected but it is certainly not enough.  It should certainly be closely monitored.

But this doesn't touch the bigger problem that controlling the epidemic spread of HIV requires.  The media has certainly encouraged the idea that people are rightly seen as a commodity both in terms of labor and sex, especially young women and girls.   The media could encourage respect for other people and drive home the reality that using other people as if they are object isn't just entirely immoral, it is also dangerous to both the used and the user.

I have mentioned that one of the justified fears of general sexual promiscuity is that other, as or more deadly viruses and other organisms can evolve and arise just as HIV did four decades ago.  Even if they can use this regimen to put a significant dent in the pandemic of HIV invections, now, there is nothing to keep another sexually transmitted disease from arising.  The biological fact is that any act of sex which includes contact with semen, blood and other biological material carries a high potential of infection.   The story says that just encouraging the use of condoms has not been universally successful, though it is another means of preventing some infections.  The biggest problem is that men and boys often won't use them and they are often in a position to either force other men and women and, certainly, children into letting them have sex without condoms.   If men and boys didn't feel entitled to be selfish, irresponsible jerks, it would, as well, be another partially successful way to prevent the spread of STDs.  Today, entertainment media, especially when the topic is sex, tells them the exact opposite.  The role of the media in encouraging selfish, irresponsible behavior among men is among the biggest problems that anyone trying to fight the pandemic of HIV is up against.  It goes way beyond encouraging condom use, though that is certainly part of it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lou Harrison: Mass to St. Anthony (1939) Kyrie and Gloria



Mass to St. Anthony was begun when Hitler invaded Poland; a mass for voices and percussion expressing both outrage and hope.